Please Try To Be Decent When Telling Us About Your 2020 Success
5 tips about how to brag responsibly so that people don’t think you are an asshole
It has been a tough year, 2020. Yes, we all know it. But in fairness, if you think about it it was just another year, where many many other things happened, not just the pandemic, the lockdowns, the restrictions and the loss.
Babies were born, people fell in love, weddings were celebrated, people still got divorced, people still started businesses and wrote books — if you think about it, pretty much business as usual, just slightly uphill.
But it has been a tough year, and the hardships, the loss, the frustration left marks on our collective psyche — even if sometimes on an individual basis some days or even weeks looked exactly as days or weeks of any other year.
And as in any other year, no matter how tough, there has been success stories. There have been successful businesses, great investments, huge viral articles and online miracles. There have been bestsellers written and love found.
There are plenty of good stories to tell — maybe because the success was achieved due to or despite the pandemic. And we all love stories! We love to read about the success of others and the inspiration that hits us after reading or seeing a truly great story arch — from rags to riches, from underdog to king of the hill.
If you are one of those people who benefited from last year because you were at the right place at the right time, or maybe because you just worked instead of wallowing in your problems, or maybe it was just the right time for you to reap what you sowed before… congratulations! Did you write a book? Lose a lot of weight? Find the love of your life? Make a brilliant decision and got a huge return on your investment? Well done, you! I am truly happy for your success — even if I don’t know you.
But I would encourage you to think twice about how you share your success with the world — because, as I said, it’s been a tough year and a year like this distorts the lens through which people will observe you and your success.
1. Your success can show a mirror that others don’t want to look into
If you just once scrolled through Instagram or Facebook you must have seen all the memes talking about how people joke about staying in their pyjamas and ordering takeout food instead of cooking. You must have seen the jokes about the pandemic weight gain and the couch potatoes we all became.
Even if these are memes and there must be plenty of people living healthy and productive lives, the majority of people have been struggling. Struggling with finances and job loss, with their health and with a huge lifestyle change. Add anxiety and depression and maybe a couple of kids and you have a recipe for a life that doesn’t feel productive at all.
If under these circumstances you start to talk about how it was just your willpower and persistence that got you to your life goal, you are basically telling others through your own success that they are lazy and useless. Don’t!
Be careful of the mirror that you show because your audience has just gone through a major change and while you might come out with flying colours, not everyone can say the same.
2. No one likes a bragger
Success stories are great — if they are not a unilateral description of how great you are. No one likes a bragger, no matter if it’s humble-bragging, complain-bragging or plain old annoying bragging.
Yes, people might click on the 348th article about how someone made a 5 or 6-figure income just by writing articles, exploiting 5+ income streams or investing in bitcoin, but if all you share is a virtual pat on your own back, you will leave people frustrated — more than ever.
Bragging is a terrible trait anyway, but under the current circumstances when the world is unquestionably a more difficult place to live in, it’s not too likeable to shove all your accomplishments in our faces.
Be empathetic, tune in into the mindset of your audience and tell them how you did it. Tell them why you did it. Tell them how hard it was. And if it was about luck — please tell that too, before we all think that your success can be replicated by any average person.
3. “If I can do it, anyone can” is bullshit, stop saying it
Being relatable is great when you share success stories. And sometimes you get the attention of others by stating how you — a mortal human being with no skills whatsoever — can reach extraordinary success. This is bullshit.
Unless you got extremely lucky, your success story is a result of hard work and progress. Of writing articles for 6 years — every single day. Of sacrificing your free time, your weekends and your relationships to launch your dream business. Of giving up carbs and sugar and whatever you have to to get into a calorie deficit to lose weight.
“If I can do it, anyone can” is privilege talking. It signals that you can’t imagine that there could be people out there who don’t have the means and the circumstances that you do. You can get up at 5 am to slay your daily goals? Well done! Tell it to the father of a newborn who got up 5 times during the night that you slept through. You can work for 4 hours undisturbed and this is how you wrote your book? Good for you! Tell it to the parents who have to homeschool their kids while trying to keep their jobs and their marriage too.
Don’t pretend that your situation is so bad that anyone in the same shoes can have the same results — because you might not even realize how privileged you are. Stay away from comparisons of the kind and find another way to make people relate.
4. When talking about success don’t omit the hard parts
Unless you won the lottery — which is not really your success, but a huge amount of luck — success usually comes with hard parts. There are always tough days, there are always impossible decisions and bends on the road. When we achieve something, our brain focuses on the celebration and it tends to blur the difficult parts into oblivion. This is natural and its a unique human capacity to selectively forget — to keep the motivation, to stand up again after a string of failures, to forget the pain and still strive for success.
We can rewrite the narrative we tell ourselves. But be careful about how you edit your success story. If you want to be an inspiration to others, don’t omit the dark parts of your journey. Don’t leave out the struggles and the doubt, don’t sugarcoat it to paint a brighter picture.
Be real about your journey — that’s how you become relatable and likeable. The difficult events make our life credible, they show that you are human and you have been strong enough to overcome the hardships — instead of just smoothly sailing through life without any issues to manage.
5. Please, leave out the clichés
Clichés are relatable because they are based on real-life experience repeated so many times that it seeps into our everyday vocabulary. It’s easy to google “success quotes” and then shower us with sentences that we can relate to. True. But we don’t want to relate to Einstein, Gandhi, Marcus Aurelius or John Lennon. Drop a quote if you must, but only if it’s something that makes your story more credible. Otherwise, trust me, we have read all the quotes you would use. Use your own thoughts.
We want to be happy for you and your success, but don’t ruin it by making us feel guilty or useless if we didn’t get to where you did last year. Let us learn from your experience, teach us how you managed to get through the rough patches, show us what being human means.
And do it for us, not for yourself. Tell the story so it could help us become successful — after all, you already had your share of success.